By: The Political Student News Team
As the world fixes its attention on Russian moves which threaten the Eastern European nation of Ukraine, a political crisis thousands of miles to the east of that conflict zone seems to have analysts much more concerned, for the South China Sea is a boiling cauldron of hostility and tension between the Chinese, the Japanese, the South Koreans, the Filipinos, and the Taiwanese, which threatens to drag the United States into a direct and bloody conflict with the People’s Republic of China at any moment. The dispute in the Far East is centered around a cluster of desolate and rocky yet potentially mineral-rich islands in the South China Sea which the Chinese call the Diaoyu and the Japanese call the Senkaku.
The islands have long been disputed territory between not just the Chinese and Japanese but also a number of other, smaller nations in the region, and those tensions turned into hair-trigger hostility in late 2013 when the Chinese declared the rocky islands part of Chinese airspace, a demand which the Americans and virtually every other nation with interest in the islands has thus far ignored. The tensions in the region were ratcheted up even further in early 2014 when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited a shrine dedicated to Japanese soldiers who fought and died in the Second World War, much to the chagrin of the Chinese and the Americans alike.
Abe’s aggressive promotion of a militarily-stronger Japan is not the only factor causing discord among American allies in the Far East, for South Korea and Japan are also longtime competitors in the economic realm, a relationship which has long caused bruised egos in the corporate boardrooms of both nations. The consensus among analysts and experts in Washington is that this matter concerns the United States much more than Russian moves in Eastern Europe due to American defense alliances which even American defense officials admit oblige the U.S. to come to the defense of the Japanese and Koreans in the event of a military conflict with China, which appears to be close at hand on any given day, as both Tokyo and Beijing release harshly-worded and potentially provocative statements threatening each other in a manner which nearly all individuals familiar with the diplomatic world agree is undiplomatic at best and potentially catastrophic at worst. The relationship between the United States and the People’s Republic of China since they faced each other in battle during the Korean War has generally been constructive, particularly in the economic realm, although tensions remain high on issues such as U.S. support for the Dalai Lama, who the Chinese consider to be a serious threat to their control of Tibet, and human rights, which is something of a hot button issue in discussions between diplomats of the two countries.
Though the United States government has spoken openly and extensively about a pivot towards Asia and away from the Middle East in its foreign policy agenda, even the most aggressive of American officials admit that a conflict with China, far from being desirable or even tolerable, could possibly be catastrophic for the United States, both economically and militarily, and therefore as the world fixes its gaze on Russian tanks on the border with Eastern Ukraine, conflict is simmering in a part of the world where the United States can ill afford it.